Get a load of these trophy bucks, from Dale Mustard's Lewis County brute to Kevin Lamar's Hancock County head-turner, plus two other fine whitetails! (Dec 2006)
Well before dawn during the second weekend of Kentucky's gun season, Dale Mustard arose at his Tollesboro home to begin preparing for the day's hunt. From a locked cabinet, he selected a gun and ammunition and placed them near the doorway to be picked up on his way out to the truck.
Following coffee and a quick breakfast, the hunter gathered his gear. Just before starting out the door, Dale walked over to the cabinet and exchanged the single-shot rifle he had selected for a CZ bolt-action rifle.
"Simply a gut feeling, nothing more," Mustard remarked. "I have deer-hunted a number of times with each gun, as well as a pistol. In fact, I hunted with a pistol the previous weekend and missed an 8-pointer on opening morning. The CZ just happens to be one of the most consistently accurate rifles I have ever shot, so naturally that gives me a great deal of confidence when I hunt with it."
Around daybreak, after parking his four-wheeler near the junction of two high Lewis County ridgetops, he began to slowly still-hunt along the crest of the ridge. Whenever he reached a good vantage point, he paused to do some rattling. After several hundred yards without seeing any sign of deer activity, he decided to retrace his path along the ridge.
"I had walked about 100 yards when I noticed sunlight reflecting off something through the trees on the opposite ridge," he related. "The distance across the hollow was pushing 300 yards. And unfortunately, I had left my binoculars in the four-wheeler. After turning the variable scope on my rifle up to 6-power, I leaned against a tree to steady the gun as I attempted to determine what the object was."
Eventually, the hunter realized the bright sunlight was shining on a deer standing motionless in a small opening on the hillside. Because of the distance involved, Mustard had a difficult time determining much detail through the scope.
"As I was watching, the deer suddenly turned its head, enabling me to see a giant set of antlers," he said. "In spite of the distance, it was obvious that the rack extended well out beyond the deer's head and body. I remember thinking, 'My gosh, what a buck!' I simply couldn't believe the deer's size."
Hurriedly maneuvering into a shooting position where there was a solid rest for the rifle, the hunter carefully aimed and squeezed the trigger.
At the shot, the buck bolted forward, running up the hillside. Quickly working the rifle's bolt, Mustard managed two more shots before the deer disappeared over the ridge.
Later, after crossing the hollow and climbing to the top of the hill, the hunter arrived at the approximate spot where he'd last seen the big deer. He scanned the ground, hoping to find some sign that he had hit the buck. After several minutes, he discovered one small splotch of blood in the leaves.
"Finding that blood was really important because I then knew for sure in which direction to continue the search. That particular ridgetop was rather narrow, and as I started down the other hillside, I spotted antler tines sticking up in the air next to an old blown down tree. Apparently, the buck had flipped in the air as it was falling and its body had slid under the trunk of the tree until the rack hung and stopped it."
A quick examination revealed that all three of his shots had hit the deer, although one struck only a leg.
Did his last-minute swap of hunting rifles make the difference between taking the buck or not? It's impossible to say, but one thing's for sure: Without the switch, he'd have been limited to only one shot.
From an appearance standpoint, the buck's rack is truly awesome, exhibiting a great combination of spread, tine length and antler mass. Most hunters would consider any buck with 9-inch G-2s to be a respectable trophy; amazingly, this measurement represents the Lewis County's buck G-4s! The G-3 tines measure 13 4/8 and 12 2/8 inches, and the G-2s tape out at 15 1/8 and 11 6/8 inches. Also, the 12-point frame has long main beams of 28 3/8 and 27 3/8 inches, and an antler spread of 23 0/8 inches outside and 20 3/8 inches inside.
The rack grosses an amazing figure of 199 7/8. Unfortunately, a number of side-to-side asymmetry deductions, plus one 3-inch abnormal point, drops the final typical Boone and Crockett (B&C) score to 187 3/8. Nevertheless, this is still a tremendous score, ranking the deer as the No. 1 typical for the 2005-06 season, and occupying the 11th slot on the state's all-time B&C list of typical whitetails.
Surprisingly, Lewis is one of only two counties in the entire state where a buck of this size ranks no higher than third place. The other two giant typicals include Jim Cooper's state- record blackpowder buck scoring 189 3/8, taken in 1999, and Ben Johnson's huge 12-pointer, scoring 188 5/8, taken in 1993.
Interestingly, of the seven typical bucks taken last season that scored over 170, four were taken by bow, including the year's No. 2 buck, an impressive 11-pointer that scores 179 0/8, taken in Shelby County by Cliff Willoughby. For the hunt story and photos of this big deer, plus the additional three giant typical bow kills, please see the issues of Kentucky Game & Fish for August '06, September '06, and January '07.
THE DARREL SCRUGGS BUCK
The No. 3 typical buck of 2005 scores 178 0/8 and was taken in Pulaski County by Darrell Scruggs of Somerset. He's been hunting deer for a number of years, but the conditions surrounding the taking of this huge whitetail were a little different than on any other trip he had experienced.
"A strong weather front had moved through the state, and there were high winds all night long," Scruggs said. "The following morning before daybreak, I drove to the farm where I planned to hunt. But the wind was so strong, I sat in the truck until daylight. After finally realizing there was going to be no possibility of hunting from a stand, I grabbed my rifle and binoculars and decided to do some walking, knowing there was no chance of a deer hearing me."
After circling through several acres of woods without encountering any deer, the hunter decided to check several alfalfa fields before heading back to the truck. After seeing nothing in the alfalfa, Scruggs was following a woods line across an open bottom when he spotted two deer standing in a distant strip of winter wheat.
"I estimated the distance at nearly 400 yards. But even so, the buck looked extremely big, even without my using the binoculars," he said. "I dropp
ed to the ground and used the embankment of an old field road as a solid rest for the rifle."
The hunter's first shot was a clean miss. But when he fired again, the big deer reared up on its hind legs, whirled sideways and fell. Seeing that the buck was struggling to get back up, Scruggs hurried closer and finished the deer with an additional shot.
The hunter's initial analysis of the buck's size certainly proved to be correct. The 6x5 typical frame includes a 19 2/8-inch inside spread, main beams that average 25 inches, and impressive tine length. For example, 7 1/2-inch brows (G-1s) are followed by paired G-2s and G-3s, all of which tape between 13 0/8 and 11 2/8 inches.
Darrell Scruggs' great buck is the eighth whitetail from Pulaski County to qualify for B&C's All-Time record book. By contrast, last season's No. 4 typical, a massive 10-pointer scoring 177 1/8, becomes the first B&C whitetail ever recorded from Hancock County. Kevin Lamar, of Hawesville, took the huge buck in a tract of hardwoods he has been hunting since he was a boy.
THE KEVIN LAMAR BUCK
"I was located in a flat of timber along a creek bottom, situated between two high ridges," Lamar noted. "Basically, that particular area acts as a bottleneck for deer moving from woodlands beyond the ridges to agricultural fields within a few hundred yards of the creek bottom. For several years, I hunted the woods line along the field's edge. But after continually seeing only does and small bucks, it finally dawned on me that the bigger deer were staying back in the timber until it was dark.
"After relocating my stands well back in the wooded bottom, I have taken a couple of trophy-class bucks."
During the first few days of gun season, Lamar hunted the area with a bow, nearly taking a big 8-pointer before finally deciding at the last minute to pass on the buck. At the time, he hunter had no way of knowing that decision would prove to be one of the most important of his hunting career.
Around midweek, a severe weather front that included several tornadoes moved through western Kentucky. The much cooler temperatures that followed greatly improved hunting conditions, prompting Lamar to try a late-afternoon hunt in the bottom. Because of the bulkier cold-weather clothing, he decided to swap his bow for a rifle.
"The wind direction that day was totally wrong for me to use my regular stand, so I carried a portable climber in and positioned it on the opposite side of the creek bottom," he explained. "One factor that makes this particular area so good is that it always seems to hold a significant congregation of does. And that afternoon, an hour after climbing into position, six of them walked out of a nearby thicket."
As the hunter watched the does milling about, browsing on honeysuckle, he suddenly heard a buck grunt. Taking out his grunt tube, Lamar responded. Within seconds, a large spike appeared and began chasing the does. Eventually, all of the deer moved out of sight. However, he could still hear the chasing going on farther back in the thicket.
"I continued to do some grunting from time to time, but the sounds of the deer got farther and farther away. While I was sitting and listening, I suddenly heard a noise from a cane thicket directly behind me. Just as I glanced around to take a look, a very big buck walked into view about 100 yards away."
Turned completely in the wrong direction, but afraid to move, Lamar waited until the deer walked behind a large tree before quickly rising to his feet and maneuvering into a shooting position. About the same time, he again heard the group of deer behind him moving about and running through the thicket. The buck, also aware of the other deer, quickened its pace while continuing in the general direction of both the deer and the concealed hunter.
"I really never considered a deer coming from where the buck was now approaching and I was a little worried about the wind. At approximately 50 yards, the buck entered a somewhat open area in the undergrowth, and I pulled the trigger," he said.
The deer immediately broke into a dead run. Lamar bolted another shell into the chamber and began tracking the moving buck. But just before he was about to shoot, the big whitetail crashed to the ground.
"To say I was excited would be an understatement," Lamar said. "However, after climbing down and walking to where the buck was lying, I was really overwhelmed to see the size of the rack. It was much larger and a great deal more massive than I had realized."
One look at the giant 10-point rack's official measurement statistics, and Lamar's comment becomes quite understandable. Three of the eight circumference measurements top 5 inches, with the smallest taping 4 3/8 inches. Also, the main beams exceed 27 inches, and four tines measure between 12 3/8 and 9 6/8 inches.
"It was extremely fortunate that the wind direction was wrong that afternoon," Lamar noted. "Otherwise, I would have been in my regular stand on the opposite side of the bottom and might never have seen the big deer. That's the thing about deer hunting -- you never know what's going to happen."
THE BRETT WILSON BUCK
A buck taken near the end of the 2004 season, but officially measured only recently, deserves special recognition. Barlow hunter Brett Wilson, who manages Deer Haven, a commercial hunting operation in Ballard County, took the deer. Unfortunately, Wilson has a genetic sight degenerative malady called optic atrophy. This recently forced him to give up regular bow hunting. But a small telescopic sight lets him use a crossbow.
In late December, while positioned near a wildlife opening, he arrowed a huge buck as it approached to within 25 yards. Despite having broken off the end of the right main beam, the 12-pointer grossed 172 2/8 and nets a final B&C score of 161 1/8. In addition to qualifying for B&C's Awards record book, the buck stands as the state's top all-time typical whitetail taken by crossbow.
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